SEO: Knowledge is power

Mar 06, 2015, 5:00am

In part II of Dermatology Times' social media exploration, we tackle search engine optimization (SEO). Our social media expert, Alexa Mokalis, breaks down how SEO can really matter for your website.

In part II of our social media exploration, we tackle search engine optimization (SEO).  Our social media expert, Alexa Mokalis, adjunct lecturer at the San Diego State University School of Journalism and Media Studies, breaks down how SEO can really matter for your website.

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I love this topic because I knew so little about it three years ago.  Many of us enlist a specialist in the layout, content, and back-end of our practice websites.  I used a hybrid approach and learned a lot along the way.  A programmer and web designer brought my vision into sights with website design, and I completed the back end and content of the website.  I liked this approach because the voice of the website is authentically mine, and I learned a lot about websites along the way.  However, it is quite labor intensive (think a year!) for a large-scale website. For busy dermatologists, the use of a good copywriter may be in order.

Despite my intermediate knowledge on websites and SEO, I was surprised by some of our expert’s comments, while others confirmed that well-done, authentic work on a website’s content pays off in the long run.  Ms. Mokalis’ most salient SEO tips:

 Ms. Mokalis’ most salient SEO tips:

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 Ms. Mokalis’ most salient SEO tips:

1.  Research best keywords

In constructing or revamping your website, you need to get inside your prospective patients’ heads to see how they search for what you provide.  To find out how keywords related to your practice are being searched, look to resources that can discover successful keywords.  

A few to try include the following: 

http://www.google.com/trends/#

http://mergewords.com/

http://www.wordtracker.com/

2.  Be mindful of “keyword density”

Google and search engines are smart.  Their logarithms for SEO are constantly being tailored to weed out “cheaters” on the web in favor of content that is substantial and relevant.  Once you have researched the best keywords for your website, keep these “hot button terms” to approximately 5-7% of your website content.  A rate higher than that could be interpreted as keyword stuffing by Google.  Google will catch foreign words, false inbound linking, and keyword stuffing, and will rank your website lower than others. 

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3.  Avoid spam-like terminology

You may be surprised to know that certain words can plummet you to the bottom of Google rankings.  Why?  They are considered spam.  Avoid the following words and character strings in your website, blog, and photo tagging:  #1, 100% satisfied, all natural, affordable, offer, free, FREE, and amazing.

4.  Location, location, location

Use your location to your advantage.  When developing tags and your website copy, be sure to use your geographic location, particularly the city name of where you practice.  This is likely to attract more qualified traffic to your website.  Also be sure to take advantage of Google Maps by creating a business listing.  This is accomplished by Google My Business, a resource that provides business owners with the ability to create a listing or claim an existing one.  The listing is free, found at http://www.google.com/business/ and should be incorporated into your “Contact Us” page.

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5.  Hone down on your homepage

Search engines generally pick up and display the first paragraph from your homepage.  This prose is the description associated with your website.  Therefore, it is imperative that the first sentences on your homepage concisely illustrate the focus of your practice.  Additionally, the “Googlebot,” which crawls and tracks the internet for relevancy of internet websites, mostly reads text.  Therefore, be sure that your practice homepage has enough content for Google to analyze and understand your practice’s mission and services.  At a minimum, your homepage should contain the following:  business name, category of your business’ services, address, phone number, and ideally several key terms.

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6.  Size matters!  More is less when it comes to website pages

Businesses that create multiple pages for their website are more likely to obtain SEO ranking priority.  Website priority is given to websites with more pages and content that is updated frequently.  This is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of patient testimonials, and even beat search rankings for other patient testimonial sites (yelp, healthgrades, vitals, etc.) over the long run.  Use excerpts from patient feedback as well as images of thank you cards from patients (and ALT-tag them appropriately).

7.  Optimize your images using ALT-tags

ALT-tags are essentially a text description for an image used on your website.  They help search engines to understand the context of the image.  Use the ALT-tag option whenever an image is inserted onto your website.  ALT-tags should be short and sweet; 5 to 15 words that include relevant keywords without spamming.  Shorter ALT-tags lead to faster page loading times.  Appropriate ALT-tags could be “before and after images of an IPL treatment” or “before and after photos from Mohs surgery in San Diego”.

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8.  Don’t forget to be social

Involvement with social media platforms not only builds your digital reputation, but also serves as relevant content that acts as supplemental entry points for potential patients.  Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube to create links back to your website.  Additionally, be sure to list your active social media platforms on every page of your website (e.g., icon links at the top or bottom of webpages).

9.  Network when possible

External links (links to other reputable websites) are another means of building your online rankings.  Consider relevant external links to happenings at your practice, and try to create similar inbound links when possible.  For example, if a physician at the practice wins a national award from a dermatology organization, link a blog entry about the accolade to the organization’s website.   Likewise, if you contribute to a health or beauty blog, ask them to link back to your website as a condition of your contribution to their website.